Not so ‘Frently’: Student-Landlord Relations in Groningen
An independent life in a city of Groningen inevitably grants one abundant circumstances to substantiate the difficulties that follow after settling in. The complexities of managing one’s household expose unfairness with which the majority of students are being treated. According to Frently – a company established to assist students in the event of such disagreements – over 10 000 students in Groningen are paying more than legally permitted. And this might be an indication of a far greater problem.
A certain level of discrimination is inescapably inherent in treating international students eager to find accommodation. The negativity of landlords towards the newcomers can be partially explained by the fact that students in general are possibly the worst tenants a landlord can have, taking into consideration their unwillingness to keep the apartment clean and readiness to throw a party. Yet most importantly it is the international aspect of these students that provides the landlords with a chance to take a certain advantage – a great number of foreigners are not familiar with the Dutch rental prices law.
The evidence that the student is not aware of the maximum rental price of his or her accommodation legally permitted by the law is truly a common case. With the intention to calculate the possible overpayment, companies such as Frently come to assistance and simultaneously provide one with the relevant data. Since 2010, through the establishment of legal procedures related to reducing the basic rental price or reclaiming overpaid service costs, the company completed over 1100 proceedings, the average savings per client being 1200 euros in 2013 alone. These numbers prove the manipulative feature of housing in a student city like Groningen. Howbeit, manipulation and misuse ostensibly evolves into something more aggressive.
Have you ever been threatened? The second year student of international relations (the person asked to remain confidential) has, a couple of weeks ago. Because of the legal proceedings she enforced against her landlord with the assistance of Frently, the student was offensively demanded to cancel the procedure by two unknown men, on the doorstep of her apartment. After folding a report at the police headquarters, the student was informed that her case is a common one – landlords indeed deploy these methods to scare the students off. Nonetheless, it is the normality of these cases that needs to be altered. With the intention to eliminate the unfairness with which the students are being commonly treated, social awareness about the evident tendency of landlords misusing their tenants must be raised.
‘It seems to be a common strategy to use our lack of expertise and knowledge of Dutch tenant law to exploit and intimidate us. I believe that landlords need to be held accountable by students; we are legally residing in the Netherlands and consequently lawfully able to make use of our rights. If exerting pressure and fighting back is the only way we can claim those rights- than so be it’, says the student. It is for these reasons that in case of encountering similar difficulties one cannot and should not remain silent. Voice your opinion and experiences in order to be heard and assisted. Be aware not only of your legal responsibilities, but of your rights as well.